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Gag

Arches Live, Glasgow
3 stars
The title of Rob Drummond’s play points to many things. A gag, after all, is a nauseous reflex action of the throat restricting speech and eating when something is forced too far down the wrong way. One’s own fingers, say, or the smell of sick. A gag is also something forced on hostages by their captors to prevent them crying out in pain or speaking the truth. Either way, this double-edged sword of a word speaks volumes about Drummond’s hinted-at subject matter.

Teenager Susan is all mouth, but perhaps it’s the Nosferatu-like shadow that haunts her dreams which keeps her talking dirty. Her older brother Jamie’s imagination is less verbally and physically inclined, though the stories both carry round in their heads, flights of fancy concerning sex, death and the all-consuming bogey-man, will haunt them a whole lot longer yet.

Gradually unravelled across counterpointing time-frames designed to point up exactly how the sins of the fathers and anyone else involved can be handed down, it’s a grim, super-realist tale, punctuated by the slow rumble of director Neil Doherty’s soundscape in his carefully measured, criss-crossing production.

If some of Drummond’s lines occasionally sound forced, their low-key relentlessness is broken by Susan Clark’s at times hilarious delivery as a provocatively bucket-mouthed Sandra. This painful dissection of Sandra and Jamie’s very private misery en route to reconciliation nevertheless shows considerable promise. Doherty too, a regular at Arches Live, which Drummond’s play forms part of, is fast shaping up to be a meticulous shoestring interpreter of the weird and off-key. Given a bigger platform and more resources, he may produce unsettling wonders yet.

The Herald, September 21st 2007

ends

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